Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday that Charter change
is not in the upper chamber’s list of priorities and said he was puzzled by a House resolution seeking to amend the Constitution.
“Even the term they are using like ‘resolution of both houses of Congress’ is not clear to me,” said Sotto. “Why? Because that term is merely a definition of either a joint resolution, a concurrent reso[lution] or a simple resolution. So what is it?” Sotto said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson described the resolution as “at best, half of the story.”
Since Congress is bicameral, nothing will happen if the senators do not agree with the House resolution.
“Without the Senate agreeing to amending the Charter via a constituent assembly, no amount of determined efforts by the House members will bring to reality new provisions of the 1987 Constitution,” Lacson said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Cha-Cha is not a priority of the Duterte administration after he failed to mention it during his State of the Nation Address at the opening of the 18th Congress last July.
He reminded those who are planning to revive Cha-Cha to think twice because this would be an exercise in futility.
Two opposition lawmakers on Friday warned that the proposed Charter change would be “very disadvantageous” to consumers and national minorities.
Bayan Muna Representatives Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat appealed to his colleagues not to support the renewed effort to tinker with the Constitution that is being pushed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments.
The committee of Rodriguez approved the consolidated resolution in a meeting last Wednesday even if President Rodrigo Duterte has already made it clear that Charter change will not be a priority in his remaining three years. Similarly, Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano earlier said that Cha-Cha is not a priority.
“We could be bracing ourselves for a tidal wave of onerous contracts similar to or even worse than the now highly publicized scandalous deals with Maynilad and Manila Water,” said Gaite as he expressed his apprehension on the approval of proposed constitutional amendments that includes giving Congress the power to lift restrictions on foreign ownership.
This authority would be granted to Congress by the introduction of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” on economic provisions in the Constitution that limit the participation of foreign investors, Gaite added.
“We have already seen the detrimental effects of opening up public service to business interests, and now they want to do it on a grander scale, involving foreign businesses,” he added.
Gaite said areas to be potentially opened to full foreign participation and ownership are in the use of land and natural resources, use of marine wealth, control of public utilities, mass media and advertising, and educational institutions, among others.
“If this amendment gets through we would see our public services turned into super-profit generating, 100-percent foreign-owned enterprises. We would be fully at their mercy,” Gaite said.
Cullamat, meanwhile, denounced Rodriguez’s effort to railroad Cha-Cha by having the resolution approved in an executive session after 10 members voted for the measure while four opposed it.
“It is clear as day that this Charter change proposal will only benefit the politicians,” Cullamat said.
Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government appealed to the House committee on constitutional amendments to approve its proposal to strengthen political parties as public institutions, anti-turncoatism provisions, and for the anti-political dynasty provisions to be self-executionary.
In a statement, DILG’s Inter-Agency Task Force Constitutional Reform welcomed the House panel’s approval of the resolution amending the Constitution to allow longer terms for lawmakers.
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